TALLAHASSEE — Bobby Bowden was so pleased with third-string quarterback D'Vontrey Richardson's performance in Saturday's scrimmage that the Florida State coach accidently called "Devo" — Richardson's nickname — "Tebow" when talking to reporters after the first scrimmage of fall camp.
Richardson is far from the level of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida, but Bowden and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher had praise for the redshirt sophomore. Richardson is trying to challenge starter Drew Weatherford, a redshirt senior and former Land O'Lakes High standout, and reserve Christian Ponder, a redshirt sophomore, for playing time.
"The quarterback that has come the furthest is (Devo)," Bowden said. "He has really gotten better."
Richardson was 5-for-10 passing for 81 yards, including a 40-yard completion to senior Greg Carr, and looked more comfortable in the pocket than at any time in his career.
"He can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with his arm, and now what he is learning to do is to beat you with his mind," Fisher said. "Everybody makes it a two-horse race. I think it's a three-horse race."
NO RESPECT: Coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons, FSU failed to make the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll for the first time in 26 years. "We'll do our best to get there when the season ends," Bowden said. "It should be (motivation). I don't think (the players) will like it, but it doesn't mean a darn thing right now."
EXTRA POINTS: Senior running back Antone Smith had a 40-yard touchdown run, showing cutting ability he has rarely displayed in his first three seasons. "In my opinion, he had an excellent day," running backs coach Dexter Carter said. "You see the shake and bake, and you see the effort. He is really trying to be that leader you want him to be in a group of great talent." … With fellow freshman running back Jermaine Thomas away tending personal issues, freshman Carlton Jones of Middleton High shared most of the carries with Smith. Jones finished with 33 yards on eight carries.
USF: Scrimmage underwhelms Leavitt
TAMPA — USF held its only full scrimmage of the preseason, and though it was marked by several notable individual plays, the overall showing left coach Jim Leavitt aware of how much there is to work on before the Aug. 30 opener against Tennessee-Martin.
"Nobody fired me up today. … We're just banging away at it," Leavitt said after the scrimmage that was cut short by rain. "It was (first-team units) vs. (second-team units) until I got mad, and then we went 1s vs. 1s. I didn't think we were sharp."
Leavitt said that true freshman defensive tackle Cory Grissom, expected to contribute this season, injured his ankle and had to be taken off the field.
Receiver A.J. Love caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Grothe, who also connected with receiver Dontavia Bogan for a score. Running back Jamar Taylor broke through for a goal-line touchdown late in the scrimmage.
"That's disturbing," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. "We didn't tackle well at times. I know they're tired and it's been two weeks, but it's no excuse."
Burnham said the defense forced at least two fumbles, cornerback Tyller Roberts had an interception, and Quenton Washington blocked a kick. Leavitt took defensive end George Selvie out after he got three quick sacks against an unnamed true freshman.
UF: Hoping to get key players on field
GAINESVILLE — Calling next week crucial in its preseason preparations, Florida closed out practice, declaring the week productive but still missing some key players, including top receiver/running back Percy Harvin.
"Next week is a real big week," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen said. "Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be huge for us. After those three days, we need to be ready to get rolling into the season."
STILL SEARCHING: The search for quarterback Tim Tebow's backup continues, with a close battle between sophomore Cameron Newton and redshirt freshman John Brantley.
"John's doing good," Mullen said. "… In Tim, you're seeing slight improvement. In Cam, you're seeing a little bit more improvement than Tim, and in Johnny you're seeing more improvement because he has the lowest foundation of experience in the offense, so you're seeing big strides."
NO PROBLEMS: Redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey said reports about a fight between he and Harvin are true, but he insists it's no big deal. The fight broke out last week (during a closed practice) after the two spent time in "the pit'' — the area where injured players go through drills when they aren't allowed to practice.
"It's like a football thing,'' Rainey said. "When two football players fight, they go back and mind their business but be friends again. I didn't start it. Both of us were mad because we were in the pit. Nobody wants to be in the pit because you have to do a lot of work and that kind of stuff.''
Rainey said there are no hard feelings between he and Harvin.
Times staff writers Greg Auman and Antonya English contributed to this report.